How can ‘The University’ Become ‘Our University’?

Mike Shore-Nye is Registrar and Secretary at the University of Exeter. In the second part of this two-part blog, he describes the ten priority themes for their new Community Engagement Strategy.

In developing new Community Engagement Strategy for the University of Exeter, our community consultation has allowed us to identify ten priority themes.

Our stakeholders identified great work that they value and want to see more. We then proposed a new ‘big idea’ for each area. We think this shows that the University is constantly evolving and thinking of new ways to contribute to our communities.

The themes are:

1. Enriching education in our region
Building on our existing commitments to enhance primary and secondary education for the benefit of children and young people in the South West.

2. Engaging communities in research
Enabling and enhancing impact and understanding of the search for new knowledge and solutions to the grand challenges we face.

3. Celebrating and enhancing our economic contribution to our region
Supporting job creation.

4. Sharing and exchanging knowledge and skills
Supporting local businesses and answer local questions.

5. Opening up our campuses
Allowing everyone to benefit from our grounds and facilities.

6. Supporting cultural opportunities
Building on our existing infrastructure and working in cooperation with city and regionally-based cultural groups.

7. Supporting volunteering opportunities
Encouraging staff and students to support the wider community.

8. Contributing to key local agendas
These include improving health care outcomes for all and the environmental sustainability of Devon and Cornwall.

9. Promoting good citizenship amongst all of our student body
Improving community cohesion by co-creating solutions to shared problems.

10. Communicating our plans for the future
Ensuring everyone knows what our goals are and why they are important – and most importantly how they can influence them for the benefit of the University and the region.

Above all we need to make sure that this strategy is authentic and that it expresses our institutional commitment in a simple and straightforward way.

At the heart of the strategy is our commitment to continue to listen to, not just talk at the community. We are committed to encouraging and maintaining a two-way dialogue.

Engagement also has to be an institution-wide commitment, embracing all areas of the University. We need absolute commitment to delivering outcomes, from our Council through to the newest members of our staff and student bodies.

There is one additional development that really shows that we are putting our money literally where our mouth. We are establishing a Community Engagement Fund, which will call for new ideas from our communities. The fund will hopefully enable and fund rapid innovation and show our practical commitment to our city and region.

Ultimately, the success of our strategy will be when Exeter is seen as being an exemplar of what it means to be a truly civic university, and when our friends and stakeholders in the wider community describe us as, ‘our University’.

For more background on Exeter’s approach to being an exemplar civic university, see the first part of this two-part blog.